mental health

If you met me for the first time today, you would never guess the struggles that I have overcome to get to where I am right now. I am confident, happy, sarcastic; I enjoy a nice glass of red wine, the stinkiest of blue cheeses, and expensive lattes.

A year ago, I was a different person. I had lost myself and everything that made me me. I felt ashamed of who I was and the paths I had taken – I was pregnant, unemployed, dating someone who was unfaithful and unkind. It’s been a tough road, climbing back up from that low-point. But I did it.

Sometimes, I think people recognize that they’re in a mess and are falling victim to negative thoughts and depression, but they reach out to the wrong people for help. In the beginning, I would put on a mask for everyone else, and only share my feelings with one person, who happened to be someone who wasn’t at all concerned with my well-being. I was told, in the end, that the reason I was neglected and left to deal with my circumstances alone was because “it was bringing (him) down” every time he was around me. Those are not the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with and confide in.

I’ve had this photo on my computer for years, to try to explain how I used to feel all the time 

My advice to anyone struggling with depression is: build a support network. I know it’s hard, but it’s a step you have to take to move forward and move past this. And make sure that your support network includes speaking to a professional. You may be more inclined to listen to advice and opinions from an unbiased stranger than you are your friends and family. And often times, you’re too ashamed to tell your loved ones everything that you think, feel and have went through. And even if you did, sometimes it’s hard to take advice from those closest to you.

Here’s an except from a “cry-for-help” email that I sent on New Year’s Day last year to my boyfriend at the time (which never received a response):

“I don’t think I have ever felt like such a loser as I do right now… How do I wake up tomorrow, knowing that this is my life? Knowing exactly what emotions I will feel, what disappointments I will face, what battles I will have to fight… And what about when I can’t take it any more? When I just can’t bring myself to wake up and face another day? What then? What will become of me then?”

My heart breaks when I read that. Not only because it’s painful to realize that I went through that, but also because there are so many people out there who feel  that way right now. I wish I could just wrap my arms around each one of them and say, “You know, it’s going to be ok. I promise, you can get through this.”

My struggle with mental health didn’t just appear out of the blue. It wasn’t necessarily because I was pregnant and broke and dating a jerk. I hadn’t been in a good place for a long time, and it took a lot of reflection to come to terms with that. For years, I faced debilitating stress headaches, I would cry before work every day, I couldn’t be happy and I just didn’t know why.

I recently read a posting on the Canadian Mental Health Association website that really resonated with me and helped explain why I just didn’t seem satisfied and happy. It is called “Balancing Your Life” and is about how your mental health is the result of how well you create “balance in all aspects of your life, including: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental.”

Where had I gone wrong? Well, the list is long, but we all make mistakes. I will name off some of the crucial ones that definitely contributed to me ending up on a one-way street headed to Depressionville.

  1. I stopped having confidence in myself – I wanted someone else to validate my beauty and worth
  2. I stopped having my own life when I started dating someone, which increased my dependency on them and decreased my access to a positive social network
  3. I didn’t budget, spent money like it was nothing and allowed myself to be taken advantage of financially
  4. I lost my spiritual connection to the world, creation and myself

What pulled me out of this horrible place? First and foremost, I had to decide to take back control of my life and believe that I was worth more and it could be better. This wasn’t easy. I called crisis hotlines and local women’s help centres (which opened my eyes to how difficult it is to find crisis resources in my city). I opened up to my friends and family. I reached out to the universe with a blog post, which resulted in one of the most influential coffees of my life. I had to make tough choices. I realised that I wasn’t ready to be a mom, which was the most heart-breaking decision I will ever have to make. I rid my life of toxic relationships and dumped my cheating, financially- and emotionally-abusive boyfriend. I started building myself back up, with the support of my friends, family and a counsellor.

If you’re struggling with depression, there is one thing that I want you to leave this blog knowing: YOU DESERVE HAPPINESS. Take a step towards creating balance in your life – it doesn’t have to be a huge step, maybe just scheduling an appointment with your doctor, going for a coffee with a friend, painting your fingernails – whatever you can muster up to start regaining some balance in your life. Why? Because you’re worth it.

Some words of encouragement from my amazing mum that I’m sending your way:

“I just wanted to send you a hug. You do not know it right now but everything will be ok.”

“Just want you to know you’re loved! I will always be proud of you whether you are or not!” 

Interested on my take on mental illness and unemployment? Here’s my post from last year, just after Bell Let’s Talk Day, and while I was right in the thick of my battle – “mental health and the past 7 months